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New code for old operating systems

Old dog; new tricks.
  (+4, -2)
(+4, -2)
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Consider a bow. Arguably an obsolete weapon. Could one make a superior bow with modern technology? Assuredly so.

Consider now computers with obsolete operating systems. Even computers 10 years old are not that useful for browsing the web (outside the halfbakery) because all the bells and whistles crash them. Neither can one open a document saved in a more recent format. These computers run fine but now have limited utility.

Much computing is made for persons with the latest and greatest. Maybe in part to compel them to buy the latest and greatest.

I propose that a repository be made for those who wish to program for older operating systems, allowing them to function in a modern environment. It would be like updating your Stutz Bearcat to make it street legal. I would hope that such programming would be considered a haiku-like challenge for those able. There would be a repository of these programs, broken down by OS.

These programs could be a boon for those in the third world. I imagine (but do not know) that PCs with 486 chips or even Macs running OS9 and the like are not hard to come by second hand. If these computers could run programs competent to browse the web and understand documents written with recent word processors it would be a great service to those for whom older computers are the only option.

bungston, Mar 12 2014

Free software for that old laptop that's been in your closet for 15 years http://macintoshgarden.org
[DIYMatt, Mar 12 2014]

8086tiny http://www.megalith.co.uk/8086tiny/
Yes, you can have a brand new XT computer. It runs on Widows, Mac, Linux, Android... There's even a version that's 4043 bytes (8086/2) long! [lurch, Mar 13 2014]

MS Thin Client for re-purposing old pcs http://www.microsof...ization/thinpc.aspx
[xandram, Mar 17 2014]

One of many abandonware sites http://www.myabandonware.com/
I know it's not quite what the poster intended - but certainly of related interest. [zen_tom, Mar 19 2014]


       If the OSes themselves aren't maintained, particularly with security patches, machines running them would quickly be turned into a big botnet. How about replacing the OS on these old machines with a lightweight Linux distro running something like LXDE?
swimswim, Mar 12 2014

       16 bit and FAT16 capabability could be tricky.
RayfordSteele, Mar 12 2014

       <tangent> for anybody interested, there is a website [link] that archives old macintosh software for previous OSs. It's all downloadable for free, of you've ever felt compelled to design a part in Autodad 1.0 or edit a video in Final Cut 2 using your 1997 Powerbook. It's amazing what they could do with a 240MHz processor.
DIYMatt, Mar 12 2014

       I was thinking about this after dusting off an old mac. Halfbaking was fine. Gmail was fine because it could see that I was deficient and adapted accordingly. Other things, less fine.
bungston, Mar 12 2014

       There are Linices specifically tailored to do just that.
FlyingToaster, Mar 12 2014

       Implementing all the bells and whistles would take a massive amount of programming and result in a load the old system couldn't take. Ignoring it and just making sure it wouldn't crash would result in missing information.
Voice, Mar 12 2014

       Missing the bells and whistles is very acceptable. That last part is what trips up the old programs - they don't understand what they are being asked to do. I want a program that understands when bells and whistles are requested and then robustly ignores them.   

       I was wondering about old computers being turned into slave zombie bots of Gor. Are the computer pathogens of the 1990s still lurking out there? Or have they died out for lack of hosts?
bungston, Mar 12 2014

       Gor had no zombies. Even the priests had some autonomy.   

       //Are the computer pathogens of the 1990s still lurking out there//   

       Most certainly so, although the very oldest are only maintained for historical interest. Give it 40 years and there will be fully intelligent and self-aware computer viruses...
Voice, Mar 12 2014

       You could cluster a bunch of them (using very old software), and make yourself a supercomputer of sorts. Just make sure someone else is paying for the electricity.   

       I seem to remember a virtual machine you could run in Linux for playing old DOS games, but that's the opposite of what's proposed here.   

       Also the 3rd world seems to be just bypassing the old days, and going straight onto the smartphones. Recent older tech is cheap enough to compete with the ancient.
skoomphemph, Mar 13 2014

       Pi can feed anything with the right utensils
wjt, Mar 17 2014

       There is a lot of problems with this, but the biggest is the hard drive. They just die. The next is power consumption as it would be cheaper to get a Raspberry Pi running for a month than turning on most old machines and it may be faster.   

       I started a project WAY BACK with an email suggesting creating a single multiprocessor machine out of MANY old machines, and it got legs for several months. (For historical reference, I was arraying many 100MHz Pentiums.) The stumbling block was having multiple machines accessing a single drive. The deal breaker was that processors advance too fast and you need ten of last years machines to equal one of todays, so 100 from two years ago, etc.   

       If you want to do this then, it is baked with Puppy Linux running off a USB stick. That will mostly solve the drive issue also. The other option is Chromium, as it would be tough to get lighter than an OS designed solely to run a browser.
MisterQED, Mar 17 2014

       The last thing that third world'ers need is to waste 10 hours a day on the internet.
Cuit_au_Four, Mar 18 2014

       Better keep them away from here, then.
RayfordSteele, Mar 19 2014


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